The remote agency tech stack

Jordan digital marketing is a remote agency focusing on paid acquisition and SEO for funded startups focusing on LTV based goals.  We currently have employees scattered around California, and we never intend on having an office, we pride ourselves on being remote first, remote always.  Our hope is that as we grow, we can hire the best talent, not just the best talent near us. It’s 2019, and there is no reason we all need to be in the same room to do great work.

Running a digital agency that is 100% remote is easier than it’s ever been, but that’s not to say it’s not still very difficult.  While there are some amazing perks involved in working for a remote agency, we also often face issues that we would not face if we had an office and saw each other face to face every day.  One of our constant improvement goals is to iron out those wrinkles that make life more difficult for a remote business than one with a physical location.

I’m going to share the tech stack that we use to make this work internally and with our clients seamlessly.

Slack

One of the biggest things you lose when working in a remote situation is the social and group learning aspects.  When you can’t pop your head between monitors and ask your colleges a question, or have a discussion in the office kitchen about the latest Marvel movie it… well, it sucks.  It sounds like it shouldn't be that big of a deal, but everyone at JDM has gone through a period of having to deal with the lack of social interaction involved with working remote. There are great things about working remote, and those things outweigh the negatives, but that doesn’t mean that remote work is without downfalls that need to be addressed.

What is it?

Slack is a messaging tool that allows for user to discuss things one on one and in “channels” which are designed around conversations around a team, project, or just a general theme.

How we use it:

We use slack as our proverbial watercooler, we have rooms for general discussion, and work discussion, we even had a Game of Thrones slack channel to discuss things while removing potential spoilers from our general threads.

We also use slack to create client based channels so that we can have direct access to the people who matter most for our business.  This keeps us out of our inbox as much as possible and allows us to get quick answers to questions that might be holding us up on client work.

 

Asana

Staying organized is important, and when you’re working with remote teams it’s even more important.  Things can fall through the cracks on projects and when you’re not in the same room, sometimes things get forgotten more easily. Asana fixes that. 

Internal meetings and accountability are also things that are more difficult to manage in remote settings, so we create Asana projects for just about everything, so that we can ensure that we are all being accountable to one another.

What is it?

Asana is a project management solution that allows people to work collaboratively to execute on individual project tasks.

How we use it:

We use Asana to build projects for each client we have.  This way we can clearly explain to the client which tasks we’re going to focus on for this week, and which ones will be focused on next week and into the future.  We have sections for weekly reporting & calls, general client resources like KPIs and budgets, and client requests as well.  

We build out work roadmaps for each client and then put them into priority tasks which will be done within the week, upcoming tasks which are generally for the next week or two, and then future tasks.  This allows us to plan for the future but also grants us the flexibility to change things as our circumstances change. For instance, if we’re planning on launching Facebook ads, but the design team needs a little more time, we explain that in a note within the task and slide it from priority tasks to upcoming tasks so that everyone understands what is going on.

Asana is also integral to how we run our 1 on 1s and internal meetings, this allows our team to work collaboratively to decide what needs to be discussed on a weekly basis so that everyone has a say in how things are going.

We organize our quarterly goals and “tours of duty” in separate asana project to track performance to our personal goals as well.  This demands that we remain accountable to one another internally.

Google Team Drives

Just as general interaction is slightly more difficult in the remote setting, knowledge and resource sharing can be a limitation as well.  To combat this we operate with a shared drive that we can access from anywhere. We chose Google Drive because we use Gmail internally and the integration was easy, but you can easily accomplish the same end with Box or Dropbox.

What is it?

Google Drives are cloud-based storage drives that can be shared between teams, so that all your documents are in the same place, even when you aren’t.

How we use it:

Team drives are shared with all clients and allow for everyone to have access to all the reports that are run.  We save everything to these drives, so that if there is easier access for more collaborative working between AMs and clients.  Once we are finished with our work we share it over Asana, but if a client ever wants to dig through old work, they always have that option with our shared team drive.

Clients can drop their creatives in our drive, AMs can drop their reports in the drive, and we don’t ever have to worry about important information being trapped on one person’s computer.

Zoom

Seeing someone’s face makes it feel more normal to work independently at a remote company.  We have a rule where we use video calls for all internal calls so that we can humanize the voices on the other end.

As is the case with Google Drive, you can accomplish the same end with any number of services, but after using and struggling with Google Meet for several months, we decided to make the change to Zoom because of call quality and stability.

What is it?

Zoom is a video call software that allows multiple people to join a call, and users can share their screens and present to the group.

How we use it:

We run all of our client Meetings through a Zoom call, on which we share our screen and go over the agenda we’ve built in Asana with the client so that that can follow along nicely as we work our way through the weekly agenda.

For internal meetings, we use it the same way, but we have a rule that we have to have our videos on unless there is a compelling reason we need to turn it off.

Hourstack

Staying productive can also be a little more difficult outside of a physical office, and one major tactic we use to combat that is by tracking how we spend our time each day.  I’ve found that tracking your time makes you acutely aware of when you’re wasting time, leading me to more productive days.  

Planning your day is also a challenge when there is not every day, in-person discussion of priorities and expectations.  So to help plan our time, we use Hourstack. What is it?

Time tracking software that allows you to estimate time expected for certain tasks and plan your week.

How we use it:

Asana is how we plan projects, and Hourstack is how we plan our time and work those tasks into our work week.  We look at our Asana tasks and then estimate the time needed for completion and enter that in for the day that we plan on doing the work.

Each time entry is labeled with a project name, expected time, actual time spent, and a label that we use for the client name.  At the end of each month, and quarter, we can go in and look at how much time is being spent on certain tasks and clients which helps us understand where we might need to streamline work or focus more time.